Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Be an honourable team player

My letter to Malaysiakini (see below) following advice by visitor 'French Connection' has been published today. It is an improved version of my recent post Team players who don't play:

My topic today pertains to the recent tiffs between the Penang state government and Dr Lim Mah Hui and Roger Teoh respectively. It is about team, teamwork and team leader.

I employ ‘team’ in a very general sense, without any qualification on its size or level. In a team, whether military or civilian, every member with his or her own speciality or specialisation and strength (experience, track record, ideas, etc) works together under the guidance, motivation and drive of the team leader to achieve an agreed or assigned objective.

Yes, every assigned team has a leader who not only has been given the authority to direct, instruct and control the team but also to account for the responsibility for the completion of the task whether successfully or unsuccessfully implemented.

Invariably, in any team there will be differences in opinions, ideas, proposals, etc, but having taken everyone’s input into consideration, the team leader and him/her alone, makes the final decision.

Now, this is the important part which some people who don’t understand his or her position in the team, basically someone who is not a good team member or team player, always fail to observe.

When the tam leader makes a decision, EVERYONE in the team is required to support it even though the final decision may be quite the opposite to what he or she as a team member has in mind or had proposed earlier.

Some of those who aren’t team players will at best sulk, grumble, complain or as our bahasa would put it, merajuk or in some cases, worse, sabotage the implementation of the decision or badmouth the team leader to outsiders.

I suspect such people are so conceited as to take umbrage that their recommendations were not taken on board, or so arrogant that their recommendations MUST be accepted whatever the circumstances may be, or are just childish, immature and behaving like spoilt brats or worse, traitors to their respective team and assignments.

Remember an ex-air force bloke who refused to adhere to Armed Forces Council Instructions (AFCI) even though it is the duty of every personnel in the Malaysian military to do so?

And who or what, by the way, is the Armed Forces Council?

We are informed by Wikipedia that:

The Malaysian Armed Forces Council is a Malaysian military body established under Article 137 of the constitution of Malaysia and is the constitutional body responsible (under the general authority of the Agong as supreme commander) for the command, discipline and administration of Malaysia’s armed forces.

It is composed of the following members;

  • The defence minister.
  • One member appointed by the Conference of Rulers.

  • The chief of the Armed Forces Staff, who is appointed by the Agong of Malaysia.

  • The secretary-general of Defence.
  • Two senior staff officers of the federation armed forces, appointed by the Agong.
  • A senior officer of the federation navy, appointed by the Agong.
  • A senior officer of the federation air force, appointed by the Agong.
  • Up to two other members, appointed by the Agong.

Should you be surprised when someone who bucked against the instruction virtually issued by the Supreme Commander of the Malaysian Armed Forces, basically His Majesty the Agong, would be asked to leave the air force if he couldn’t be a team player?

Tough job

The team leader always has a tough job because in the final outcome he or she bears the responsibility of any failure.

In a military team or group such as a platoon or up to a division or even an army group of umpteen divisions as we heard existed in World War II, the leader must take responsibility for any failures.

People like Erwin Rommel, Vo Nguyen Giap, George Patton, William Westmoreland, Peng Dehuai (Chinese Commander in Korean War), Georgy Zhukov (Russian commander against German forces invading Russia), and Heinz Guderian, had either benefitted from their successes or paid for losses under their command.

We have read of Rommel suffering the ultimate loss.

And in a political team at the highest level, the cabinet members are the team members while the PM is the team leader. After consulting the ministers in the cabinet, the PM makes the final decision and either prospers or falls by those decisions.

On a slightly lower level (at the state), the team members would be exco members while the chief minister (CM) or in a sultanate state, the menteri besar (MB) is the team leader.

Thus in Selangor as an example, MB Azmin Ali makes the decisions and the state exco members are required by etiquette to support his decisions, or at best resign if they cannot agree with the MB’s decision, and except in corruption cases with evidence, preferably like gentlemen (or ladies) without badmouthing the MB’s decisions which they might have disagreed with.

In a loose sense it can said that voters appoint the MB and CM as respective team leaders of their states, and naturally if they don’t perform satisfactorily because of incorrect decisions and policies, they would have to answer for those wrong decisions by at least the next election as had happened to, for example, Wong Pow Nee (Penang 1969), Koh Tsu Koon (Penang 2008), Tajol Rosli Ghazali (Perak 2008), Khir Toyo (Selangor 2008) and Harris Salleh (Sabah 1986).

I come finally to my point, that of Dr Lim Mah Hui and Roger Teoh. Both were in a sense advisers to the Penang government, with the latter being formerly a member of the DAP.

Alas, both could not accept that on state matters, the CM and his exco, being voted by Penangites to be the state’s CEO and executive team, have to answer to the voters and thus have the commensurate authority to make decisions.

Now, those state decisions, whether on the state heritage matters or Transport Master Plan, might not be to Dr Lim and Roger’s liking, or that each felt the CM and his exco members had not taken on board their inputs, but they should understand the CM and team have the commensurate authority to make decisions because in the final accounting, it will be the CM and team (and not Dr Lim or Teoh) who have to bear the responsibilities and which may see them being voted out in the next election.

Pressing and practical considerations

The CM and team might also have other pressing and practical considerations to factor into their decisions which Dr Lim and Roger Teoh, both being not voted into the executive team, need not have to answer for nor account to Penangites.

Are Dr Lim and Roger Teoh team players?

Should they then respectively write to Unesco and local media when the state team via the CM made decisions which did not accept their inputs or take on board their pet recommendations?

While it may be human, indeed quite natural to feel somewhat slighted or hurt when our pet proposals have not been used, should we then retaliate by complaining to the outside world?

There is a management saying that ‘With authority comes responsibility’ and thus ‘With responsibility comes authority’.

Were Dr Lim and Roger Teoh voted in by Penang voters, so much so they want to realise their recommendations one way or another, or alternatively, effectively raze (or politically damage) the state government through revelation of their side of the story?

Forgive me if I say that at times it can be quite annoying that some want ‘authority’ but not the accompanying ‘responsibility’ or even not realising there’s an accountable ‘responsibility’ with that ‘authority’.

Before I conclude, perhaps a word from Michael J Marx, author of ‘Ethics & Risk Management for Christian Coaches’, may be appropriate. He said:

“Decision-making and problem-solving are not the same. To solve a problem, one needs to find a solution. To make a decision, one needs to make a choice.”

That could explain the difference between Dr Lim Mah Hui and Roger Teoh versus the Penang state exco.

But whichever, it will be the team leader who makes the final decisions and team members (at every level) are honour-bound to support that decisions, and be gentlemen enough to respect those decisions without pulling the rug from beneath.

And there is no more authoritative team leader than the person voted in by Penangites.


  1. Civil Society forums have to be run to different rules from Top-Down discipline structures that exist to varying degrees in the Military, Corporate and Government.

    With these Hierarchical organisations, the members are paid employees who are subject to varying levels of discipline for not obeying orders.

    In the Military, in a combat situation, the penalty for refusing to obey orders can go up to Summary Execution. It has been carried out before.
    In Government and Corporations, penalties can be financial penalties, demotion and dismissal.

    In Civil Society, where the issues often involve community matters, and the forum members are volunteers, not employees, there has to be room for dissent and disagreement.

    Lim Mah Hui , for example, retained the right as a private citizen to raise his concerns directly with UNESCO, as he saw fit.
    In the case of the DAP member, I suppose DAP can still fire him, with due process.

    1. KT got a little excited today because of the French connections.. wakakaka

  2. Thank you, this is as "to the face" as possible.
    In no uncertain terms and unless there are as thick-faced as MO1 will not keep on the crap for all it is worth!

  3. is penang state gomen run by the executive (cm, dcm1 & 2 & exco) or dap & pkr?